Vickers Vimy En Route For Trans-Atlantic Flight

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The Vickers Vimy replica that flew 15,000 miles from England to Australia in 1994, then 9,000 miles from London to Capetown in 1999, is ready for adventure No. 3 -- retracing the first nonstop Atlantic crossing, made by the British team of John Alcock and Arthur Brown, flying a Vimy, in June 1919. The open-cockpit biplane, with two engines and a 70-foot wingspan, left California on Thursday, en route to St John's, Newfoundland. The Vimy will stop in Oshkosh, Toronto and Ottawa, and launch from St. John's sometime in mid-June. At the controls this time is ubiquitous aeronautical adventurer Steve Fossett, along with co-pilot Mark Rebholz, a veteran Vimy pilot and 747 captain. They will navigate using only a sextant and compass, the same instruments that Alcock and Brown relied on. The total flight time for the 1919 flight was 16 hours 12 minutes. "We were tired of being alone in the fog and drizzle, sometimes discovering that we were flying upside down," Captain Alcock said on landing. The crew's radio broke down shortly after takeoff, and they flew in clouds most of the way. At one point the airplane began to spin, but they broke through the clouds and Alcock regained control. Fossett and Rebholz expect to fly for 24 hours at about 75 mph and land in Clifden, Ireland. And in case you're wondering -- yes, the obscure Alcock and Brown really were the first to cross the Atlantic nonstop, and won a 10,000-pound prize for the effort. Charles Lindbergh was the first to cross nonstop from New York to Paris -- a much longer flight -- and the first to go solo. For more info, daily updates, and live in-flight video from the Vimy's trans-Atlantic flight, go to the Vimy Web site, or to National Geographic.